Kalihi PhD student wins 2019 ARCS Award in Medicine to study diabetes in her community

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Alina Pang. Tina Shelton photo.
Inspired by the way that the UH medical school performs research in the community, she too hopes her research will help the people of Hawaiʻi.

Alina Pang, a graduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), has been awarded the 2019 Kai Bowden Award in Medicine by the Honolulu Chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation. Pang received the award on May 6, 2019 during the Annual ARCS Foundation Honolulu Awards banquet at the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikīkī.

Pang has been investigating the role of immune cells and metabolism in disease, particularly type 2 diabetes. Her eventual goal is to perform clinical and translational research in Hawaiʻi.

“I was first inspired to pursue a career in science in high school, when I took a DNA science course where I had the opportunity to design and conduct my own experiments,” Pang said. “I was amazed by the ingenuity required to manipulate and observe changes in cells.”

Pang, who grew up in Kalihi, earned her high school diploma from Kamehameha Schoolks and her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from UH Mānoa. Now a fourth-year doctoral student in the Cell and Molecular Biology program, she expects to earn her PhD in May 2020. She was initially attracted to JABSOM because the medical school, through close collaborations with local physicians and clinics, performs research in the community.

Pang has participated in clinical research on neurodevelopmental disorders and currently works with the Physicians’ Center at Mililani to study diabetes. She finds it exciting to meet other JABSOM students and faculty and learn about their diverse research areas. Her own Ph.D. work focuses on molecular mechanisms contributing to immune cell inflammation in diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Pang is appreciative of the many individuals who have helped her during her educational journey. “I have been very fortunate to have received great mentorship at JABSOM from Drs. Mariana Gerschenson and Michael Corley,” she said. “They have always encouraged and guided me throughout my graduate education and I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Her collaboration with Dr. Ryan Lee and Miki Wong proved especially rewarding and gave her an opportunity to perform research aimed at children with neurological disorders. Pang still seeks advice from her undergraduate mentors, Drs. Alan Lau, Steven Robinow and Floyd Reed, who continue to influence and inspire her.

Pang’s favorite spot in Hawaiʻi is her grandma’s house in Kalihi. When not working, she likes to spend time with her friends. She also enjoys traveling, noting that her favorite places outside Hawaiʻi are Thailand and Japan.

The ARCS Foundation advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding U.S. citizens pursuing research in science, engineering, and medical fields.